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Empire of Japan

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Flag of Japan adopted 1870, official 1999
Flag of Japan adopted 1870, official 1999

The Grand Imperial Nation of Japan (大日本帝国; Dai Nippon Teikoku) is a direct translation of the official title of Japan before the end of World War II. The names Grand Empire of Japan, Empire of Japan, Imperial Japan, Japanese Empire and Empire of the Sun all refer to the same entity.

The empire had the Meiji Constitution (1889) which states the Japanese Emperor is the head of state and has sovereignty over the nation. Below is a translation of the Japanese Entry:

Yoshinobu Tokugawa, the 15th Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, returned power to the Emperor with "The Return of Sovereignty " (大政奉還; Taisei Hōkan), afterwhich the Imperial Court declared “The Restoration of the Monarchy " (王政復古; Ōsei Fukko). With this, the feudal anti-shogunate clans, Satsuma and Chōshū, formed the base of the new Meiji-government and with the intentions of becoming an empire the country was renamed to “The Grand Imperial Nation of Japan.”

The country was formally known as “ The Grand Imperial Nation of Japan” in accordance to “The Constitution of the Grand Imperial Nation of Japan ” (大日本帝国憲法 Dai Nippon Teikoku Kenpou ). However, the names “Japan” (日本 Nihon), “Great Japan ” (大日本 Dai Nippon), “The Great Nation of Japan ” (大日本国 Dai Nippon Koku ), “The Empire of Japan” (日本帝国 Nippon Teikoku ) were all used, and it was not until 1936 that the proper title of the country was standardized.

In 1946, the year after the close of the war, Japan restructured as part of their defeat, and the country’s title was revised to “The State of Japan” (日本国 Nihon Koku).


With the Great Depression, Japan, like some other countries, turned to what has debatably been termed Fascism. While it was a unique form of the system, probably due to cultural differences, Japan parallelled the western form very closely, as its Feudalism did hundreds of years earlier. Unlike Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, though, Japan had two economic goals in developing an empire.

First, as with its European counterparts, a tightly-controlled domestic military industry seems to have jump started the nation's economy in the midst of the depression. Also, due to the lack of natural resources on Japan's home islands, in order to maintain a strong industrial sector with strong growth, raw materials such as iron, oil, and coal largely had to be imported. Most of these materials came from the United States. So, for the sake of the military-industrial development scheme, and industrial growth on the whole, mercantilist theories prevailed, and the Japanese felt that resource-rich colonies were needed to compete with European powers. Korea (1910) and Formosa (Taiwan, 1895) had earlier been annexed as primarily agricultural colonies. Manchuria's iron and coal, Indochina's rubber, and China's vast resources were prime targets for industry.

Manchuria was invaded and successfully conquered in 1931, with little trouble. Ostensibly, Japan did this to liberate the Manchus from the Chinese, just as the annexation of Korea was supposedly an act of protection. As with Korea, a puppet government (Manchukuo) was installed. Jehol, a Chinese territory bordering Manchuria, was taken in 1933.

Japan invaded China in 1937, creating what was essentially a three-way war between Japan, Mao Zedong's communists, and Chiang Kai-shek's nationalists. Japan took control of much of China's coasts and port cities, but very carefully avoided European spheres of influence. In 1936 before the Chinese invasion, Japan signed an anti-communism treaty with Germany, and another with Italy in 1937.

See also: Imperialism in Asia


See Also

This period is part of the Showa period of Japanese History

< Taisho period | History of Japan | Occupied Japan >

Last updated: 05-07-2005 14:24:57
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04